Transatlanic and contemporary slavery collecting project

iron restraints for legs

The International Slavery Museum has received a £225,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help develop its collections, through the Collecting Cultures fund. 

The Heritage Lottery Fund grant is helping the museum to enhance its already unparalleled transatlantic slave trade and contemporary slavery collections, in order to help tell a moving and powerful story. 

The International Slavery Museum's first Collecting Cultures acquisition was a copper engraving by the famous British caricaturist James Gillray, published in 1851, depicting an infamous scene of cruelty described during a parliamentary motion for the abolition of the slave trade. The engraving shows an English slave driver punishing a young enslaved African because he was too sick to work. The inscription on the engraving describes how he was thrown: 

"into a copper of boiling sugar juice, and after keeping him steeped over head and ears for above three quarters of an hour in the boiling liquid, whipt him with such severity, that it was near six months before he recovered of his wounds and scolding."

cartoon illustration showing a man pushing another man into a large tub of boiling liquid

Original antique copper engraving by James Gillray. First published by Hannah Humprey in 1791; this example comes from between 1845 and 1851. It was published by Henry Bohn from Gillray’s original plates, With hand-colouring.

The museum has also acquired a pair of shackles of the type used onboard slave ships during the Middle Passage, the second leg of what was known as the transatlantic slave trade.

Enslaved Africans were forced to endure this brutal journey across the Atlantic from the West Coast of Africa to the Americas and such instruments were used to restrain and imprison enslaved Africans below decks in the ship’s hold.

The shackles are on display from 7 January 2016 at the John Hay Library at Brown University in the United States, on loan to the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice and the Brown University Library. The shackles will then return to the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, where they will go on display permanently at the end of this year.

Further acquisitions will be twofold:

  • The Transatlantic Slavery Collection, targeting items such as ivory tokens, abolitionist correspondence and objects.
  • The Contemporary Slavery Collection, targeting objects which will increase public awareness of contemporary slavery and ignite discussion.

The funding will also enable the International Slavery Museum to develop public programmes using the collections and their stories, history and research to give a voice to the objects.

Contact us

Email our curator about the Collecting Cultures project at

Further information about Collecting Cultures

"This is a tremendous boost and enables the museum to develop our story about transatlantic slavery and modern day slavery.

There is nothing as immediate as being able to connect with a real object which has historical meaning. Real objects enable an emotional connection to strong personal stories of exploitation, the fight for justice and representation.

It is also a step forward in our ambitious long-term plans to expand the museum into the Dr Martin Luther King building."
Dr Richard Benjamin, Head of the International Slavery Museum

A total of £880,000 has been granted to North West museums through the Heritage Lottery Fund's Collecting Cultures announcement, made on Tuesday 7 October 2014. 

"Collecting Cultures is unique: HLF is the only funding body that currently offers this type of support for museums, libraries and archives. Building on past success, this second incarnation of the initiative is back by popular demand.

This investment of over £880,000 will enhance collections across the North West - ranging from fashion to football – and encourage more public access and involvement."
Sara Hilton, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North West

Heritage Lottery Fund logo

visitors looking at portrait photos of Black achievers in the museum

© Dan Kenyon